On Sunday night, Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa will hit another career milestone as he competes in his 1200th NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Hossa, who also has surpassed the 1000 points plateau and has established himself as one of the premier defensive forwards in the National Hockey League, is likely going to make it into the Hall of Fame when his career is over, and he’ll do so largely on the sustained success that he has found with the Blackhawks.
In his six-plus years with the team, Hossa has scored 152 goals, dished out 198 assists, and helped the team at both even strength and on the penalty kill as they’ve won three Stanley Cup championships.
He also provided a needed dose of veteran leadership on a team that was populated with young guns when he arrived. Players like Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook all have letters on their chest and the unquestioned respect of their peers on the ice, but when Hossa arrived, all three were much younger and hadn’t been able to get over the hump and win an elusive championship for the Hawks.
Needless to say, Hossa’s arrival on the scene changed all of that in 2009. From the word go, Hossa was a contributor on offense and on special teams, scoring at least 20 goals in five of his first six seasons (the only season he fell short was the lockout shortened 2012-13 season) and combining with Jonathan Toews to form one of the most defensively sound top lines in the entire league.
Even outside of statistics, Hossa has also provided some of the most memorable moments of this era of Blackhawks hockey. His stellar debut against the San Jose Sharks, where he scored twice and led the team to a thumping victory. His amazing hand-eye coordination as he dropped a puck to himself and slapped it out of midair for a goal. His thrilling game-winning tally in Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinal against Nashville.
All of these moments have been memorable, and Hossa has certainly lived up to his end of the bargain that he agreed to when he inked a 12-year contract with the Blackhawks before that fateful 2009-10 season.
Of course, there will be plenty of questions about Hossa’s future that will need to be addressed in coming years. When he’s ready to hang up his skates, how will they handle it? Will they let him retire and pay salary cap recapture penalties, or will they place him on long-term injured reserve and use the Chris Pronger method to save themselves from cap hell?
Better yet, will they continue to roll with him on the top line even as he creeps closer and closer to the age of 40?
These questions will be answered as time wears on, but there is one thing that is certain about Hossa: he has been an integral part of this team’s success, and as he continues to hit milestones (he’s only nine goals shy of 500 for his career, and 22 assists shy of 600), it gives fans of the team a chance to appreciate everything that he’s done.